SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And Texas Congressman Ron Paul took a break from the campaign trail following his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, but today he is back in New Hampshire. He'll take part in tonight's debate with the other Republican candidates for president. Yesterday, Dr. Paul addressed an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in an airplane hangar in Nashua and took particular aim at one of his competitors, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: It was a lively gathering and the 76-year-old Paul seemed to feed off the energy of his sign- and balloon-carrying backers. He mockingly said that some of his opponents want to, as he put it, label us.
REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL: They call us dangerous.
PAUL: And you know in a way we are, to their empire. That's what we're dangerous to. We're dangerous to the special interests and the big spenders, the people who want to run our lives, they want to police the world and spend us into bankruptcy, and they think they know how to manage the economy. We're going to change that. They're in danger of getting routed from the system.
NAYLOR: Paul recited his by now familiar challenges to Washington and sometimes to Republican Party orthodoxy, including a return to the gold standard, fighting only wars that have been declared by Congress and making friends overseas by - in his words - minding our own business and not dropping bombs on people.
PAUL: You know, inevitably, you know, the pundits, those people that tend to interview us and try to embarrass, always come, up all right, Congressman Paul. You're so out of step with the Republicans and you have this foreign policy that seems so strange. Oh yeah, very strange - strong national defense, mind our own business and take care of ourselves.
NAYLOR: Paul's Libertarian message is expected to play well in this state, where the motto after all is live free or die. A new NBC Marist poll has Paul in second place in advance of next Tuesday's primary, but far behind Mitt Romney, who is the next thing to a favorite son here. Paul supporter Andy Bridge of Amherst says he's a former Republican who can't bring himself to vote for the candidate he dubs Mitt McCain.
ANDY BRIDGE: And that's the way I view Mitt Romney, as nothing more than John McCain light, you know. I find it so interesting that here's the apparent leader in the Republican Party being endorsed by a guy that Romney lost to, who then lost. I mean, it's madness.
NAYLOR: That same NBC poll shows Rick Santorum rising to challenge Paul for second place in New Hampshire. Speaking to reporters after the rally, Paul had plenty to say about Santorum's voting record in the Senate.
PAUL: He brags about being for the balanced budget amendment - never did anything about it, but four or five times he voted to raise the national debt. So, that tells you how conservative - he doubled the...in order to double the size of the Department of Education.
NAYLOR: And the Paul campaign released a new anti-Santorum ad that it plans to air in South Carolina, site of the next GOP primary after New Hampshire.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
NAYLOR: Paul says he plans to emphasize what his opponents believe in between now and Tuesday. And if people vote for somebody who supported big government, Paul says, that means they just didn't get enough information. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Manchester. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.